Tag Archive for 'study habits'

Ask Test Masters: Which Study Book Should I Use for the GRE?

ASK TM“Ask Test Masters” is a free informational service offered by Test Masters, the fastest growing professional exam preparation company in the United States. You ask, we answer. KJ, a graduate school hopeful, wants to know which GRE study book to use in the preparatory process.

KJ writes, “Which GRE study book is most effective for doing well on the test overall?”

Dear KJ,

This is an excellent question; the materials you use to prepare for the GRE will have a significant impact on how well you do on the exam. A study guide is no substitute for taking a preparatory course; however, when you are operating on a budget, studying on your own can sometimes be necessary. Test Masters prides itself on using only the best and most accurate course materials; included with every Test Masters GRE course is an Official GRE Study Guide (2nd edition). This guide is the most up to date and comprehensive independent study guide available, and if you intend to prepare for the GRE on your own, it is a must-have. The Official GRE Study Guide is available for purchase at the Test Masters book store.

Hope this helps! Let us know if you have any more questions.


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GRE Study Tips: Make Your Study Sessions More Effective!

Hmmm… quite. I do see Spot run.

There are a number of ways you might make your study sessions more effective.

The first step is to make sure you are not studying in an environment that is easily distracting. Avoid study habits that might lead to casual distractions, like studying with the TV on. Even using your computer can lead to procrastination; it’s very easy to go from “Analytical Writing” to “American Idol” if you are using Google search. Essentially, you want to be comfortable, but not comfortable to the point of distraction. For example, if you’re studying at home you may find it more effective to study at the kitchen table than your bedroom.

Your choice of HOW to study can be just as important as your choice of where to study! After you have decided on an appropriate location to study, perhaps your university or local library, you should start focusing on what methods you will use to study. Everybody learns differently: some people are visual learners, others learn better verbally, and others find written repetition to be the most effective means of memorization. Some people learn best by incorporating various elements of all three styles. The important thing is to figure out what works best for you!

Flashcards have been helping people learn since the late 18th c.

If you are a visual learner, then you should try making flashcards; make a set of flashcards for each distinct topic in a specific subject and separate your various sets with rubberbands. This is a great long-term strategy for several reasons: not only will you have effectively prepared for your upcoming test, but by the night before the exam you will have a complete set of carefully crafted cards, separated by section and topic! The simple act of making the flashcards themselves is a great way to study, and when you’re done, you have great study materials to keep practicing with.

Even children know working together makes you better!

If you are a verbal learner, then you might want to consider organizing a study group (just make sure everyone you invite is as serious about studying as you are). A study group made up of the right people can be a powerful learning tool; a collaborative group of peers gives you the opportunity to both learn and teach. A college instructor of mine insistently advocated this approach, professing “You cannot truly understand a subject until you can explain it to another person!”

Repetition has long been held to be one of the most effective means of memorization. Can’t remember something? Write it down a thousand times in a row and you will! Though this method of learning is certainly effective, it is not necessarily efficient. This method is best used as a long-term approach rather than as a last minute effort to study before the GRE. The danger of studying this way is that you can spend hours and hours recopying notes or textbook passages, redrawing important diagrams and charts, and still only cover a fraction of the material you need to in order to perform well on an exam.

Time ManagementThese study strategies employ a variety of different tactics and features, but they share one common theme: TIME MANAGEMENT! In order to successfully execute these strategies, and any other study strategy, you must carefully manage your time. You are going to have to commit in order to rise up to the challenge of the GRE; this means dedication and sacrifice. Carefully plan your day, week, and even semester in advance; establish a routine that works for you, and you will get the results you’re looking for.

ASK TMRemember, the experts at Test Masters are masters in all tests! If you need help studying, our tutors are available year-round to help!

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GRE Analytical Writing Overview Part II: Analysis of an Argument

Analyze the following Argument: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Analyze the following Argument: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

The GRE Analytical Writing section can be a stumbling block for many students. However, with practice it can become one of the easiest sections on the test. Scoring on the GRE Analytical Writing  section is based on a 6 point scale that is broken down into half-point increments. The highest possible score would be a perfect 6, and the lowest would be a 0 (reserved for blank or completely off-topic essays). This score is determined based on your performance on the two essays that make up the Analytical Writing section: the Analysis of an Issue essay and the Analysis of an Argument essay. Today, we will focus on the Analysis of an Argument essay.

In the Analysis of an Argument essay, you are presented with a short paragraph in which an argument in favor of a certain point of view is made. A typical paragraph of this sort might resemble the following prompt (which was indeed used on the GRE exam in the past):

“Woven baskets characterized by a particular distinctive pattern have previously been found only in the immediate vicinity of the prehistoric village of Palea and therefore were believed to have been made only by the Palean people. Recently, however, archaeologists discovered such a “Palean” basket in Lithos, an ancient village across the Brim River from Palea. The Brim River is very deep and broad, and so the ancient Paleans could have crossed it only by boat, and no Palean boats have been found. Thus it follows that the so-called Palean baskets were not uniquely Palean.”

Success in responding to these prompts is dependent both on one’s general writing skills and on strategies specific to this kind of essay. With regard to general writing skills, it is important to try to maximize both your idea count per sentence and the variety of your diction and sentence structure. Essentially, this means you should avoid diffuse, wordy writing and try to make use of all the vocabulary words you have been studying for the Verbal section of the exam. At the same time, attempt to create a pleasing variety of simple, compound, and complex sentences so that the writing flows nicely.

Turning to strategies specific to the GRE Analysis of an Argument essay, the most important strategy is to memorize and practice all of the possible kinds of prompts you could be given. These prompt types are listed on the official GRE website, and are reproduced here:

  • Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
  • Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions, and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the advice and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the advice.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.
  • Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.
  • Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be addressed in order to decide whether the conclusion and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to the questions would help to evaluate the conclusion.

Essentially, you are being asked to determine the validity of the argument made in the paragraph in one way or another (note that this means the argument will always be logically flawed in some way: your goal is to find and explain these lapses in reasoning). Remember, the most successful essays are those that most directly address the specific task indicated by the prompt; less successful responses may be on topic but fail to address the specific task at hand. The official GRE website also lists past Analysis of an Argument essay topics that you can use to write practice essays. Remember, practice makes perfect, so you would do well to take advantage of these resources. For additional help, resources, and strategies that will prepare you for the Analysis of an Issue essay, consider studying with the experts at Test Masters. Until then, best of luck and happy studying!

Sometimes it is Greek: Polysemous

Many people would argue abstract art is polysemous because it is open to multiple interpretations.

Each week, “It’s not GREek!” will discuss a new word likely to appear on the GRE.  We aim not only to give you a new word to memorize, but also to provide you with some background and etymological history to help you remember it.  At the end of the post, we will also give you a sentence with a few other new words to add to your flash cards.  By following this weekly series, you should be more prepared than ever to tackle the sentence completion, sentence equivalencies, and reading comprehension questions on test day.

This Week’s Word: Polysemous

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the variances of language or the myriad potential interpretations of a single word or sentence? Has a precise definition or explanation eluded you because of an intentionally opaque phrase or passage? Polysemous is an excellent descriptor when confronted with vague or abstract material.

Polysemous is the characterization of something as having many possible meanings; its etymological origins come from the Greek roots poly-, which means many, and sêma, which means signs.

Linguistically, a polysemous relationship is one in which a single word or phrase can be understood to have multiple meanings. Consider this example, “In my hands rests the only antidote ever developed, and the fate of the world.” In this example, the verb ‘rests’ refers not only to the antidote but also to the fate of the world, one resting physically and the other metaphorically, and is therefore polysemous.

More generally, polysemous may simply refer to a passage or word that is open to multiple explications; it is also a word that will surely wow any grader when used in the appropriate context. For example, when presented with a complicated or convoluted passage, one might argue the author has a polysemous relationship with his work or that the work itself is polysemous.

Sample Sentence:

Peter’s polysemous prose perplexed postmodernists with its potency.

Miss the last “Sometimes it is Greek?” Check it out here. Want more GRE vocabulary? Click here for the free Test Masters GRE vocabulary list with over 2,000 words!





Should I cancel my GRE scores?

Taking the GRE is a scary enough experience, but even after you have finished the exam, you will be left with one major decision: do you want to see your scores or cancel them?

No matter how badly you thought you did on the test, you never want to cancel your score. Continue reading “Should I cancel my GRE scores?” »

How To Prepare for the GRE: Four Essential Things You Need

Train your brain!

A friend of mine is planning on taking the GRE in July. Having been out of school for a little while, he’s worried that his test-taking and studying skills have eroded away a bit, and he’s been asking me what he should be doing to prepare. I could see that the GRE is overwhelming him a little, like I’m sure it is for many people, so I broke it down for him into four simple tips. Here are the four things that are absolutely essential to any preparation routine for the GRE.

Continue reading “How To Prepare for the GRE: Four Essential Things You Need” »

Preparing for the GRE: Psych Student Psyches Himself Up for the GRE

The key to success...is your mind. That's deep.

Three thousand vocabulary flashcards, hundreds of hours of practice, a Testmasters GRE prep-course, private tutoring, and a trip to the psychiatrist- this is what it took for me to get the competitive GRE score I needed. English is not my second language, I do not have a learning disability, and I did not take the test drunk. My friends, I suffered from a serious case of TEST ANXIETY! My hope is that readers may benefit from my story and potentially avoid the self-induced suffering I experienced.

Continue reading “Preparing for the GRE: Psych Student Psyches Himself Up for the GRE” »

Taking the GRE: The Calm Before the Storm


According to forecasts, Hurricane GRE will be making landfall tomorrow.  My November resolutions held up fairly well.  I missed a couple practice tests, and I didn’t study my vocabulary quite as assiduously as I had hoped, but I still feel like my study strategies have prepared me pretty well — at the very least, they’ve given me confidence.

Since we’re only allowed to take the GRE once per calendar month, I picked a date near the end of November so that I can take it again in December if I have to.  Also, I decided to sign up for an afternoon test because I wanted to make sure I was fully awake and so that I could spend a few hours beforehand warming up; the downside is that I’ll probably be spending all day pacing around my house swimming in a sea of vocabulary words, trying to cup as much as I can in my hands.  The one thing that morning tests really have going for them is the fact that you don’t have time to sit around and stew beforehand.